It's not often a boxing manager and/or promoter find themselves having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But, one man did.
James Caan, God rest his soul, best known for starring in The Godfather and more recently Elf, was a career-long actor, but he also dabbled in the fistic sport he loved. The New Yorker found himself managing boxers, promoting shows, and even in the fighter's corner during bouts.
On May 18, 1987, the acting colossal found himself in a much different role at the Forum, Inglewood, California. A role that didn't pan out so well. Michael Hunter, a father to current contenders Michael and Keith Hunter, glared across the ring, deep into his opponent's eyes that night, Levi Billups. Guiding him through the fight between rounds as he sat upon his stool was ‘Sonny Corleone,' only this wasn't a character; this was James Caan reading the riot act rather than the scripts he was used to.
In an interview with Yahoo Sports back in 2012, Caan reminisced on that fight, “I was in his corner that night, which turned out to be not such a good idea, even though it was pretty hilarious in the end. He was fighting so badly, just hugging the guy and not throwing anything. I was getting angrier and angrier, and even though they had told me there were live microphones in the corner, I was starting to lose it. In between rounds, I told him that if he was ever going back to prison, he had better make sure it was for armed robbery because it certainly wouldn't be for assault and battery.”
Hunter had his demons outside of the ring, but Caan tried to guide him the best he could. “I remember the first time I saw [Hunter Sr.], he had this crazy style. He would move from side to side instead of in and out, but it was so unorthodox it was difficult to handle,” he told Yahoo Sports. “They would bring him in as a tomato can for young up-and-coming fighters to beat up on, but then he would turn the tables and knock them out.”
As a Hollywood star, he brought some clout with his name to the boxing world. Being in Hunter's corner just 15 years after The Godfather would've been a marketing and publicists haven for the former heavyweight. The actor would later go on to star in the movie, A Fighting Man, which also featured Freddie Roach. Caan gathered all his knowledge and experiences from the eighties and put them into his role as a boxing trainer.
A practicing martial artist, James Caan was 47 when he entered the world of professional boxing, and although his stint in the sport was brief, his love and passion for boxing stayed with him until his recent dying breath, aged 82. Caan's manager announced the actor had passed on July 6, 2022.
As James would often sign off his messages on Twitter, ‘end of tweet,' his family posted this message one last time. The thoughts of everyone at NYFights go out to Caan's friends and family at this time.
End of tweet.